I never expected to be a stay-at-home mom, or SAHM, as I’ve learned to call it from the mommy blogs. As a child my vision for myself was of a woman striding down shiny corridors in high-heeled shoes, the sound of which I associated with feminine power. Instead, I wear this year’s Birkenstock sandals to the playground and wipe the sand and grit off my feet when I get home.
My right to claim SAHM status is limited. I was home full-time with my daughter for the first year of her life and then worked part-time (just twelve hours a week) for the next two. I’ll do the same with my son, born three months ago, and I don’t plan to work full-time until both are in school.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about my decision to be primarily at home. In retrospect, it seems that it wasn’t so much a decision as the path of least resistance; things seemed to flow in that direction and I didn’t do anything stop them. It helped that I was in graduate school when my daughter was born and so could simply opt out of teaching for two semesters. A big reason I didn’t want to work was nursing-mother laziness; I flat out refuse to pump. Another is my belief that this is what’s best for my children, but I’ve known for some time that this cannot be my sole or even primary reason; this has to be what I want for myself. Likewise, I recognize that I cannot do this in expectation of some sort of future payoff; I cannot expect or hope that my children will be any smarter, kinder, or better adjusted than those who spent less time at home. The experience of this time has to be its own reward. In this regard, parenting has been one more teacher in what I have come to recognize as my personal life’s work: living in the present, staying in the moment. As a dance instructor once said to me, I could enjoy the process more.
A friend told me recently that she could never stay home full-time and asked me how I do it. I have asked myself this very question, and I find it difficult to answer because I don’t really feel that I am “doing” anything. To me it feels similar to being pregnant: a relatively small amount of time devoted to a particular state of being. Being pregnant, like taking care of small children, is often demanding and exhausting and tedious and frustrating, but we don’t ask ourselves how we “do it.” We just do.
So I decided to interpret this question literally.
Here, roughly in the order in which I employ them, is my list of things that get me through the day:
- Twenty minutes of yoga or Pilates, subject to comments from three-year old and interruptions from baby
- Out of the house from 10-1, preferably with mom friends *
- Nap with baby for one hour in the afternoon while non-napping three-year-old watches PBS **
- Assign husband to three-year-old the minute he steps in the door
- Get into bed immediately after children are asleep
- Read New Yorker or novel for forty-five minutes
- Sleep ***
* Mom, or Dad, friends are the key to success.
** Some people, including myself, consider this cheating, or at least bad form.
*** As much as possible with night-nursing baby.